Photo: Ayham Sabah. Via Palestine Information Center

17-year-old Palestinian boy Ayham Sabah was sentenced by the Israeli occupation’s Ofer military court to 35 years in prison on 17 December 2018. Ayham, from the village of Beitunia near Ramallah, was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million NIS (approximately $300,000.) He was accused of stabbing an Israeli occupation soldier inside the illegal colonial settlement in 2016 at the age of 14. The occupation soldier, who was also himself an illegal settler in the Ma’aleh Michmash settlement, died of his injuries. 

The hefty fine was labeled “compensation” for the family of the occupation soldier. Ayham was there with Omar Rimawi, who was also 14. While Omar was shot and killed by another settler, Ayham was severely wounded in his shoulder, foot and hand after being shot. Both were denied medical care for long periods of time before being removed from the scene. Ayham’s father, Bassam Sabah, spoke with Asra Voice radio, saying that the lengthy sentence reflected the racism of the occupation, that does not see Palestinian children as children. Further, the father said that the verdict did not weaken his son’s morale. “He considers the sentence to have no value, because his hope for freedom is much greater,” he said.

In addition, Ayham’s father said that his son’s sentence is not an isolated incident but a price imposed on Palestinians wherever they are and a suffering that will not end until Palestine achieves its freedom. “Steadfastness and survival is our only option,” he noted.

Ayham is one of over 200 Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel, including 41 under the age of 16. Palestinian children are even detained without charge or trial under so-called “administrative detention,” facing indefinite renewal on the basis of secret evidence. He is not the only Palestinian child facing extreme sentences: Muawiya Alqam, 14, was sentenced to six and a half years in Israeli prison; Ahmad Manasrah, 14, to 10 years in prison; Nurhan Awad, 17, to 13 years in Israeli prison. In several of these cases, including those of Ahmad and Nurhan – like Ayman – a close friend or family member, also a child, was shot down and killed in front of the surviving child.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network condemns the sentencing of Ayham Sabah and demands justice and freedom for imprisoned Palestinian children. We further call for international action to compel the Israeli state to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and end international military aid and assistance that funds the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian children.

The imprisonment of children highlights the necessity of building the movement to boycott Israel, including economic, cultural and academic boycott and the imposition of a military embargo. The imprisonment, oppression, and killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli occupation is part and parcel of the Israeli colonial project in Palestine, and the only true freedom for Palestinian children will be achieved through the freedom of the Palestinian people and the liberation of Palestine.